Zimbabwe/Algeria: Despite Attacking Prowess, Warriors Can't Outdo Desert Foxes

Zimbabwean players celebrate their goal at the African Cup of Nations in Gabon on Sunday night. Kudakwashe Mahachi scored to equalize with Algeria. The Warriors then pulled ahead after scoring from a penalty, and the more-fancied Algeria came back to make the final score 2-2 only in the final 10 minutes of the game.
16 January 2017

With a little more quality in both the attacking and defensive thirds, Zimbabwe might have pulled off the first surprise win of the 2017 African nations Cup finals on Sunday, but in the end had to settle for a 2-2 draw with fancied Algeria.

Zimbabwe went behind to a goal from recently-crowned CAF Footballer of the Year Riyaad Mahrez, before grabbing the lead thanks to goals from Kuda Mahachi and Nyasha Mushekwi (penalty).

But Mahrez netted again amid incessant pressure from the North Africans, denying Zimbabwe what would have been a famous win.

Everything that pre-tournament analysts expected of Zimbabwe turned out to be true.

They are a squad 'top-heavy' with an excellent array of attacking talent, but lack experience in defence and were always vulnerable at the back.

The goals they gave away to Mahrez were well-taken by the Algerian, but should have been prevented, while their opponents also struck the woodwork twice.

But at the other end of the pitch Zimbabwe looked a potent force, with Khama Billiat in particular showing why he is one of the most exciting talents on the African continent.

He at times mesmerised the Algerian defence and might have had a goal when the score was 0-0 as his spectacular 35-yard volley crashed back off the post.

It is clear that Zimbabwe have the firepower to trouble any team in this competition, but the reason why they probably will not advance past the pool stage is that it is not matched by the requisite solidity in defence.

But they showed enough heart and fighting spirit to suggest they could yet spring a surprise and certainly coach Kallisto Pasuwa was buoyed by the performance.

"You [the media] asked me who was the favourite and I answered Zimbabwe. You all laughed," he said. "But in this group, there is no small team. I hope that this point against Algeria will motivate my players to do better against the next game against Senegal."

Algeria coach Georges Leekens cut a relieved figure and says he always new the Warriors would be a tough side.

"We knew that Zimbabwe was very difficult. The next two games will be just as difficult," he said. "Yet we focused on the first game. In the second half, we responded appropriately. With a team like Zimbabwe, you have to be careful every minute."

Hero for the Algerians, Mahrez, had a mixed game, showing flashes of brilliance but also giving away sloppy possession from simple passes. He felt his side had done enough to win the game.

"The African Nations Cup is never easy. It was known that the first game against Zimbabwe was going to be complicated," he said. "We were missing in the first half. We did a very good second.

"We missed a lot of opportunities. We can only blame ourselves. We have to keep working and have a good second match against Tunisia."

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